Authorities involved in the management of the Tonle Sap Lake area will continue to suppress fisheries crimes in the area, following a “successful” 2022 with their enforcement campaigns leading to an increase in fisheries production over the preceding year.

In November 2021, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered authorities around the lake to cooperate more closely to end the clearance of flooded forest land and protect the area’s natural resources, including fish sanctuaries.

Mao Hak, deputy secretary-general of the Tonle Sap Authority, told The Post on January 3 that the government has increased the measures that are in place to prevent natural resource crimes and protect the flooded forests.

“In 2022, the general situation around the lake has improved, with water levels returning to normal.

“Fish yields have recently increased, a clear indicator that the efforts of local authorities are working. In 2023, there are plans to introduce further mechanisms that will build on our successes,” he said.

Im Rachana, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post that the ministry will continue to strike a balance between conservation and development.

“Conservation serves future development. The lake itself is an important feeding ground for many species, and the Upper Mekong River is a breeding ground for fish and freshwater dolphins,” she said.

“Keeping these two areas free from overfishing will bring high fish yields across the country. In the future, the use of fishing nets in the Upper Mekong River from Kratie to Stung Treng provinces will be banned. The ministry will prepare plans to retrain the fishermen in the main rivers of the two provinces so they can find an alternative way to earn their livings,” she added.

Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) president Sok Touch said last year’s increase in fish stocks was a notable achievement.

He said the ban on seine fishing – which uses a large static net – would allow more fish to migrate in search of food and breeding grounds.

“More effective enforcement against fishing in conservation areas or during the spawning season, as well as the use of electrified nets, has had a massive impact. The increased protection of the flooded forests, which serve as nurseries for many fish populations, has also contributed to the increase in fish production,” he told The Post.

“For more than two years, some fishermen in the area around the Tonle Sap have held grudges against me.

“I’d like to offer my thanks to the prime minister for his support of the RAC’s research project on the Tonle Sap,” he added.

According to the annual report of the Fisheries Administration, the flow of the Mekong River into the Tonle Sap Lake in 2022 was higher and faster than the previous year, which led to increased water levels in the central rivers, streams, lakes, canals and flooded forests of the Kingdom.

“The Tonle Sap Lake began to rise in late July last year, and receded in November. The high water levels led to a significant increase in fish stocks,” it said.